1 Dead, 16 Injured As Severe Storms Pelt Ga., Ala.

Friday, February 20th 2009, 5:48 am
By: News On 6

ATLANTA - One person was killed and at least 16 were injured when fierce thunderstorms swept Georgia and Alabama, bringing tornadoes, hail and lightning and downing trees and power lines, authorities said Thursday.

At least three tornadoes touched down in central Georgia when the storms swept through overnight, according to National Weather Service teams who rolled out after daylight to determine if twisters had hit based on the damage. The storms gutted homes, and destroyed a nightclub and damaged schools.

"It looks like a B-52 bomber went over," Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills said. "The buildings are completely disintegrated."

In the Hancock County town of Sparta, Johnny Frank Baker was killed when his home was destroyed by the storm, county coroner Alexander Ingram said.

Most of the 143-year-old Hickory Grove Missionary Baptist Church, which is across the street from Baker's home, was leveled and nearby graves were uprooted by toppled trees.

Kent McMullen, a meteorologist with the weather service in Peachtree City, said one confirmed tornado cut a 7-mile swath through rural Jasper County with winds of up to 100 mph. At least 10 people were injured and as many as 100 structures were damaged in Jasper County, emergency managers said.

Two other twisters touched down in Taylor County and at Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins, south of Macon, McMullen said.

In Alabama, an apparent tornado uprooted trees in Geneva near the Florida line. No injuries were reported.

The storms also damaged at least two schools in Fayette County south of Atlanta.

Across Georgia, roughly 13,400 homes and businesses lost power during the height of the storm. Much of it was restored by Thursday morning.

The storms might just be a preview of the spring tornado season. A record outbreak of 21 tornadoes struck the state on March 1, 2007, wrecking a hospital in Americus and killing nine people. A tornado struck downtown Atlanta on March 14 last year, causing millions of dollars in damage, and some buildings still have broken windows.


Associated Press writers Dorie Turner in Atlanta and Shedd Johnson in Montgomery, Ala., contributed to this report.